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My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?
June 21st, 2011
10:10 AM ET

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics.

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Growing up in the evangelical community, I learned the Bible’s stance on homosexuality is clear-cut. God condemns it, I was taught, and those who disagree just haven’t read their Bibles closely enough.

Having recently graduated from Yale Divinity School, I can say that my childhood community’s approach to gay rights—though well intentioned—is riddled with self-serving double standards.

I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them “unnatural.”

Problem is, Paul’s only other moral argument from nature is the following: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Few Christians would answer that question with a “yes.”

In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative.

I also don’t doubt that those who advocate gay marriage are advocating a revision of the Christian tradition.

But the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy. When a theologian named Jovinian challenged that hierarchy in 390 A.D. — merely by suggesting that marriage and celibacy might be equally worthwhile endeavors — he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

How does that sit with “family values” activism today?

Yale New Testament professor Dale B. Martin has noted that today’s "pro-family" activism, despite its pretense to be representing traditional Christian values, would have been considered “heresy” for most of the church’s history.

The community opposed to gay marriage has also departed from the Christian tradition on another issue at the heart of its social agenda: abortion.

Unbeknownst to most lay Christians, the vast majority of Christian theologians and saints throughout history have not believed life begins at conception.

Although he admitted some uncertainty on the matter, the hugely influential 4th and 5th century Christian thinker Saint Augustine wrote, “it could not be said that there was a living soul in [a] body” if it is “not yet endowed with senses.”

Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic saint and a giant of mediaeval theology, argued: “before the body has organs in any way whatever, it cannot be receptive of the soul.”

American evangelicals, meanwhile, widely opposed the idea that life begins at conception until the 1970s, with some even advocating looser abortion laws based on their reading of the Bible before then.

It won’t do to oppose gay marriage because it’s not traditional while advocating other positions that are not traditional.

And then there’s the topic of divorce. Although there is only one uncontested reference to same-sex relations in the New Testament, divorce is condemned throughout, both by Jesus and Paul. To quote Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”

A possible exception is made only for unfaithfulness.

The community most opposed to gay marriage usually reads these condemnations very leniently. A 2007 issue of Christianity Today, for example, featured a story on its cover about divorce that concluded that Christians should permit divorce for “adultery,” “emotional and physical neglect” and “abandonment and abuse.”

The author emphasizes how impractical it would be to apply a strict interpretation of Jesus on this matter: “It is difficult to believe the Bible can be as impractical as this interpretation implies.”

Indeed it is.

On the other hand, it’s not at all difficult for a community of Christian leaders, who are almost exclusively white, heterosexual men, to advocate interpretations that can be very impractical for a historically oppressed minority to which they do not belong – homosexuals.

Whether the topic is hair length, celibacy, when life begins, or divorce, time and again, the leaders most opposed to gay marriage have demonstrated an incredible willingness to consider nuances and complicating considerations when their own interests are at stake.

Since graduating from seminary, I no longer identify with the evangelical community of my youth. The community gave me many fond memories and sound values but it also taught me to take the very human perspectives of its leaders and attribute them to God.

So let’s stop the charade and be honest.

Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Homosexuality • Opinion

soundoff (6,474 Responses)
  1. GodIsTheWay

    I'm an opponent of gay marriage. I'm an opponent of men having long hair, and women having short hair. I'm an opponent of spelling "marriage" correctly, since in no way does any spelling LOOK right. I'm against divorce, I'm against remarriage, and I'm against abortion. next?

    January 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  2. Douglas

    More and more gays and lesbians are finding fulfillment through celibate partnerships. As the lessons of the Bible become a way of life for people seeking answers in a world of conflict, there is assurance in the knowledge that gays and lesbians are loved and that power and salvation is possible through celibate relationships that are pleasing in the sight of God. Straights would do well to follow this example of obedience and remain abstinent until married and faithful to their betrothed after exchanging vows. Anything less is falling short of the mark and separates us from our divine host. Regards, Douglas

    January 14, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Ok'yDok'y

      There is nothing wrong with gays having a loving partnership. They are human beings just like everyone else. Being gay is not sin and it's not a sin as long as they are christians married before their god. Stop trying to push your stupid agenda on these people. They deserve loving intimate relationships just like straight people. It's time for you to put your bigotry and prejudice agenda down. What an idiot.

      January 19, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • J.W

      If they are celibate, would they be allowed to do other things? Just as long as there isn't actual intercourse? At what point does it go from not being a sin to being a sin?

      January 19, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Douglas

      J. W, Good question. The boundaries are established in the Bible which provides useful guidance in areas like this. It is sinful for a man to lie with a man as he would with a woman. It is the same for women who would lie with a woman as they would with a man. Consider these acts out of bounds. There is nothing wrong with a friendly hug or kiss that is a sign of friendship. Acting and thinking lustfully ecourages temptation and temptation is followed by sin if it is acted upon. There is true power and salvation for gays/lesbians who can commit to celibacy and straights who resit the temptation to fornicate. Thanks J. W for considering this alternative as a means to salvation. I will keep you and your partner in prayer. Regards, Douglas

      January 20, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Ok'yDok'y

      "It is sinful for a man to lie with a man as he would with a woman. "

      Only when their worshiping a pagan god or didn't you read the text prior to that and are only taking snippets to justify your pathetic prejudice.

      "Acting and thinking lustfully ecourages temptation and temptation is followed by sin if it is acted upon."

      That doesn't apply when the gay couple is married before their god. DUH!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  3. splovengates

    GAY CHRISTIAN = OXYMORON

    January 14, 2012 at 4:05 am |
    • Ok'yDok'y

      OXYMORON = splovengates

      January 19, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  4. Jake

    "Although he admitted some uncertainty on the matter, the hugely influential 4th and 5th century Christian thinker Saint Augustine wrote, “it could not be said that there was a living soul in [a] body” if it is “not yet endowed with senses.”"

    That's what modern science is for. When doctors go in and poke an unborn baby, they respond to it. They flinch, they know its there, meaning they can SENSE it...meaning...they have a SOUL. Unborn babies are alive and God has breathed their unique character and soul right into their lungs, even if they arent using them yet. Just because they can't breathe, does not mean they cannot feel...we know they can feel, and that right there debunks this "mr. yale smarty pants'" whole abortion argument.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      A bundle of nerves are not aware. Also quoting 5th century Christian thinkers to discuss fetal development does not impress.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • HellBent

      We can build robotics that flinch when poked. Certain synthetic materials will do this as well. So will slugs. And plants. They must all have souls. Perhaps we should pass legislation banning lawn mowers.

      *facepalm*

      January 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Jake

      and your point is? that unborn child (human being) is NOT a robot or a slug, so what relevance are they in the argument? You can't just bring in completely irrelevant ideas and try to correlate them. That's not how debate works, @HellBent. 'facepalm' yourself. Don't talk with an ego, like what you are saying has absolute truth, especially when it is evident you have a low level education. Robots...Slugs? Why am I even bothering to talk to you...

      January 11, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Todd

      I'm confused by what you are trying to say here. Are you suggesting that the sperm and the egg have 'souls'? Or that that 'soul' is only instilled once the sperm cell, among the millions that are released, merges with the egg, that at that point this merged piece of goo now has a soul and can think? I just want to be clear on what you are getting at.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • GodPot

      " that unborn child (human being) is NOT a robot or a slug, so what relevance are they in the argument?" Prove it. All you are doing is shouting out an ignorant, uninformed opinion, just like the rest of Christianity. Have you eve examined a booger under a microscope? You would be amazed at the amount of movement you'll see, so by your logic my boogers have souls, and I really hope someday you will get to visit booger heaven.

      January 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Colleen

      A fertilized egg does not flinch when you "poke at it". Embryonic movement is not possible until basic nerve and muscle development is well progressed, somewhere around 6 to weeks after conception. If you want to start with fetal heart development, that is not detectable until 23 days after conception.

      January 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • hahaney

      Exodus 21: 22-25
      " When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, ( i.e. an 'involuntary abortion') and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman's husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.
      If any harm follows (to the human being involved here), then you shall give life for life (i.e. death penalty), eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
      If the fetus is as much a human being as the mother, why does the death of the full-size human merit capital punishment, while all the death of the premature human being merits is a fine?

      January 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  5. Drew Loves Shoes

    "Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own."

    EXACTLY!!

    January 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  6. Peeje

    This is an awesome piece. I particularly love this quote "Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own". This is not just applicable to gay marriage, it is applicable to almost every viewpoint that the "Christian" political right promotes, to the point that I would dispute that there is anything actually Christian about them at all. Attributing your own thoughts to something or someone outside of yourself & then deifying them is a form of idolatry.

    January 7, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Kay

      I, too, love his "Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own". And, as you say, that type of argument can be used for anything, not just gay marriage.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  7. Nickolai

    Wow – I just love how many of so called "Christians" are throthing at their ends of mouths here, and saying how they are "attacked" and some such and how whole world is against them and other blah blah blah. All i can say – live and let live. Things beyond your nose are none of your business.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  8. DaveInPA

    Excellent!

    January 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  9. Anon

    All Christians are screwed up in the head.
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUVXEmJRGns&w=640&h=360]

    December 31, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Fred

      This video contains a lot of unsubstantiated "information". I cannot find any of this on i.e. Wikipedia. Why not? Pleas give us your sources or remove the video please.

      January 2, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • Brandon

      What is the context of this video? Who is this speaker? And who is the Dr. Craig that he apparently is speaking in response to? Unfortunately it seems the tenets of Christianity have been badly misrepresented for this speaker. I appreciate his reasoned approach. He asks some questions that should be asked. But there are much better answers for those questions than the ones that he was provided.

      January 5, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Todd

      For those who have asked, the speaker is Dr Sam Harris. He has his degree in Neuroscience from UCLA and a degree in philosophy from Stanford. He can be called an 'atheist' but he doesn't like that word. He has stated he is perfectly willing to accept the existence of god if it can be proven that God exists.

      The video is from a debate he had with William Lane Craig who is a christian philosopher. Personally, I always found William Lane Craig's debates hard to understand when he is speaking. He delves too much into the metaphysical. Dr Harris is much better at driving his point across philosophically.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  10. Anon

    A gay Christian is like a black KKK member.

    December 31, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Pat

      That's true, except for the utter lack of any similarities at all.

      January 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Matt in Saginaw

      My Christian Gay Partner cares for a number of Black individuals (nursing home) that have always hated their own kind, due to culture differances and the way blacks are raised in poor families so to ANON: there are Both!

      January 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  11. Ed Razzano

    AMEN! and dare I say GOD BLESS YOU!

    Peace & Love, my friend!

    December 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Ed Razzano

      And further... the whole article is summed up in the last sentence "Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own." No mater what their reasons are...they don't hold water with me... and btw.. my opinion: the Bible is a wonderfully written work of fiction to force people into fear based obedience from a time when forming civilizations had no other authority to enforce "order" in communities.. It's also a source of Spiritual Psychotherapy when interpreted "correctly". The stories are wonderful for that. Unfortunately organized religion has ruined the beauty of the Bible for their own financial benefit. I encourage you and anyone else to read the Bible as a work of fiction.. and then see which religion's "Cliff-notes" you most subscribe to. I"m guessing it's not gonna be any one of the Major Organized religions.

      December 30, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  12. Max

    "If long hair on men is not really intrinsically evil, then men committing acts of sodomy on each other must be OK in God's eyes"
    Really? That is the floor-wax deep level of your theological training and insight?

    As pointed out here: http://bedlamorparnassus.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-do-not-oppose-gay-marriage.html#comment-form

    the state has not the right, ability, authority, or competence, to redefine the substance of marriage.

    December 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Alice

      I wish CNN had a "like" button.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • biodan

      I second the "like", and I love how CNN is bringing out the big guns (former ministers that still use their old priestly clothes and Yale Divinity School graduates) to tell us Christians how we should interpret the Bible in such a way that will make us more likely to fall more in line with their humanistic/secular agenda. Next week, they'll have a Muslim author giving us tips on how to understand the word of God.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Duh

      "the state has not the right, ability, authority, or competence, to redefine the substance of marriage."

      Some already have moron and it's working out just fine. It's called equal civil rights, it might help if you look it moron.

      January 3, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  13. Douglas

    **News Flash** – "Gay" Penguin courts female penguin!
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16153511

    December 13, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Duh

      So What – it doesn't change what the experts in the world believe about gay people. LMAO! You are such an idiot.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Duh

      "They were separated last month by zoo officials who said they needed to reproduce "

      It's sad that they were broken up by the zoo officials and not by their choice.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • JohnnyBKK

      And when was the last time you saw a penguin go to church?

      December 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Matt in Saginaw

      Really???

      January 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  14. Whatever

    I think people who care who loves who are people who do not love the person their stuck with, or worse, they don't even like themselves.

    December 12, 2011 at 2:35 am |
  15. xerxes

    I believe in God, the one named Yahweh. He is more than a friend and creator to me. My soul is a piece of Him that he gave autonomy to. Because of that autonomy (which comes pre-installed in all souls), I have the choice to follow Him. Other people also have that choice, and personally, I don't care one bit what someone else chooses. One of my own ideas is that I should not fight for the establishment of God's rules in all people because that is forceful and conveys hate, not love. Instead, I fight to give God's children (aka all humans) the choice, because God gave them autonomy. I protect that autonomy because it was God's greatest gift. He loves all humans so much that He has given them a right to choose the path that best fits them. I walk my path, and I want others to walk their path too. When it comes right down to it, the Pope's soul has the same basic power that the soul of a socially rejected, homeless, gay drug addict has: the power to live their life as they see fit. And if people think I am wrong, they have the right to be that way. I want to coexist.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Martin

      The problem with your school of thought is that it's inconsistent with the scriptures which states clearly the need to crucify the flesh and its lustful pleasures. The church of Satan ,you can look it up , expounds what u are suggesting, do whatever pleases ur conscience, knowing fully well that ur physicality is principally controlled by unGodly desires. I would suggest that you educate your mind with the word of God and yield yourself to the holy spirit to teach and direct your path.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. joshu

    God loves all and forgives all. God doesn't hate, just some bigot who constantly twists it screws His words.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Max

      God's forgiveness is conditional, one must actually ask Him for it. Seems that the sin of Lucifer, the sin of pride, is preventing a good many from doing that.

      December 29, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Anon

      You're all screwed up in the head.

      December 31, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  17. Anonymous

    .

    November 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  18. Eugene

    /

    November 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  19. Douglas

    Today we give thanks to a merciful God who has provided us with the power of celib@cy and abstinence to keep us
    pure until we exchange wedding vows. I give thanks to all of you who are making an earnest effort to respect the
    dignity of those practicing celib@cy and abstinence. Our young people need encouragement and uplift to see beyond
    the filth that can drag them down into the abyss of despair, STDs and broken hearts. Thank you for all of your efforts.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Douglas

    November 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I feel very sorry for you douglas, and I think it's horrible that you try to drag others into your world of self-loathing. It's okay to be gay. Really. There is more evidence that being gay is innate than there is evidence of the existence of any god.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Douglas

      tallulah13,
      Hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your family.
      No need to feel sorry for me tallulah. As a Christian I have come to expect slings and arrows
      from those who see things differently. That's OK. No one is forced to accept the teaching of God through the BIble.
      Tallulah the choice is yours to make. I am not twisting your arm here, just trying to provide some insight to explain
      my position in terms of the discussion on this blog. The broken hearts, explosion of STDs, abuse of men, women and children
      are all rooted in behaviors in which the devil finds work. Together, you and I can make a difference for people who are trying to make
      some tough decisions that will affect them for eternity. No one ever got an STD or unplanned pregnancy by practicing celib@cy or
      abstinence. I think that record speaks for itself. Tallulah, thanks for your response. At least you take the time to review what I have writtten and that's a start.
      Best, Douglas

      November 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Bob

      Douglas,

      Today I don't give thanks to the ass-hole of a god that the Christians worship.

      That god, according to the Christian bible, threatens us with eternal torture for doubting his existence after centuries of him apparently not doing a dam-n fscking thing, demands that we sacrifice animals to him because he likes the smell of burning flesh, and murders whole peoples. And let's not even get into the natural disasters and all "god"'s design errors.

      Enough with your sick Christian supersti-tions and your stolen holidays, already.

      November 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Huh?

      "abstinence to keep us pure until we exchange wedding vows"

      Hey now Douglas is making headway that's right gays deserve to be married just like everyone else, because nowhere in the bible does your god condemn the saved loving long term partnership of a gay couple. Plus, the experts have shown that being gay is a normal part of sexuality, it's not a mental illness, it's not a choice. They deserve the same happiness and intimacy that comes from having loving relationships.

      Yes for gay marriage. – Nice job Douglas you're coming around!

      November 28, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Douglas

      Huh?
      Wow! I'm gone on travel for a couple of days and you claim I support gay marriage?
      Nice try, but no cigar. Gay marriage is forbidden in accordance with Biblical instruction.
      In Matthew 19, Jesus clearly defines marriage as the union of one man
      and one woman who become one flesh. No provisions are made for gay or lesbian marriages.
      Gays and lesbians can co-habitate, but should remain celib@te or abstinent to conform to
      Biblical instruction. There is power and salvation for gays/lesbians who can practice celib@te
      living and for straights who remain abstinent until married. It's a tough challenge and Jesus himself makes that call
      at the end of Matthew 19:12.
      Take care Huh? and have a blessed Christmas with your family!
      Best, Douglas

      November 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Gay marriage is forbidden in accordance with Biblical instruction."

      That is not true, especially since the NT was written long after Jesus was dead so his original followers probably did not write those books. When you factor in the writer did not understand gays and lesbians back then the issue was never addressed. The writer wrote the bible from the perspective of being straight. Jesus was about love and supporting those being oppressed. I am sure all the gays that are married through their church before your god are well loved and are not considered living in sin. It's only bigoted and prejudice people like you that want to deny true happiness to those you don't understand. Being gay is normal, it's not a mental illness, it can't be voluntarily changed.

      November 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Pontificate

      Huh?

      Did you grow up as a Christian? Have you ever read the ENTIRE Bible?! Then you do not know what you speak of. You sound slightly impaired! Stop trying to convert the Bible's meaning into your on and take it as what it is. If you're a non-believer than you shouldnt even be discussing these things especially on a public forum. Dont take people's faith and beliefs out of context for your own benefit...it's disrespectful (No matter what the faith/religion is). smdh @ people like you. Just shut up.

      December 2, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Huh?

      "Did you grow up as a Christian? Have you ever read the ENTIRE Bible?! Then you do not know what you speak of. You sound slightly impaired! Stop trying to convert the Bible's meaning into your on and take it as what it is. If you're a non-believer than you shouldnt even be discussing these things especially on a public forum. Dont take people's faith and beliefs out of context for your own benefit...it's disrespectful (No matter what the faith/religion is). smdh @ people like you. Just shut up."

      Yo moron your bad spelling is giving you away on your real identity. You're still a moron and if you actually did your research you would know what I am talking about. Your god does not condemn the loving save gay relationships, as we understand it today. It's Christians like you that are taking it literally and NOT putting it into proper context. Now you shut up since you have no idea what YOU are talking about idiot.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • J.W

      Jesus never defined marriage as between a man and a woman. I think that the verse about a man leaving his home to join his wife or however it goes I forgot now is taken this way, but I think that is because the idea of gay marriage back then was unheard of.

      December 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Hap Hazzard

      Remember, god make us in his image... and parts of us are dirty and shouldn't be used.

      December 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
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    November 17, 2011 at 8:47 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.